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Nevada the latest state to move up GOP primary calendar

GOP Reagan debate
The Republican presidential candidates stand together before a Republican presidential candidate debate at the Reagan Library Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011, in Simi Valley, Calif. From left are, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, Businessman Herman Cain and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. AP Photo/Chris Carlson

The Nevada Republican Party on Wednesday evening announced it will hold its presidential caucuses on January 14, making Nevada the latest state to move up its nominating contest.

The primary calendar was thrown off-kilter when the Florida Republican Party decided to move its primary to January 31, even though Republican National Committee rules dictate that only four states are allowed to hold nominating contests before March 6 -- Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

The early-voting states are now scrambling to move up their nominating contests to stay relevant in the process. Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian said in a statement that Nevada's January 14 caucus "will greatly improve Nevada's standing and relevance in terms of national politics."

"By establishing this date, we maintain Nevada's standing as one of the first four 'carve-out' states and as the very first in the west," she said.

Now that Nevada has set its new date, New Hampshire is expected to follow suit. Because of a New Hampshire law that requires the state to hold its first-in-the-nation primary at least seven days before the next nominating contest, Republican leaders there could theoretically set their primary no later than January 7. Since the event would typically be held on a Tuesday, that makes January 3 the most likely date.

But New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner said Tuesday that if Nevada's contest is held Jan. 14, New Hampshire could vote as early as December 2011, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports.

"That time of year makes it very difficult," Gardner said, referencing the New Year and Christmas season. "There is a flexibility to go into December if we have to."

In the last election cycle, Gardner waited until just before Thanksgiving to set the date of the New Hampshire primary, keeping the calendar uncertain for a prolonged period. This year, nominees have until October 28 to get on the New Hampshire primary ballot.

Iowa laws, meanwhile, say the state must hold its first-in-the-nation caucuses seven days before any other state's nominating contest, including New Hampshire's. (They don't always follow the rules, however; in 2008, the Iowa caucuses was five days before New Hampshire.)

All the states that are moving up their nominating contests in violation of RNC rules will lose half of their voting delegates at the national convention.